Economic forecaster faced ‘significant challenge’ obtaining DWP data

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Scotland’s independent economic forecaster has faced a “significant challenge” obtaining essential data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), it has emerged.

Dame Susan Rice, chair of the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC), told Holyrood’s Finance Committee the body was forced to use freedom of information legislation to get the data it required.

Convener Bruce Crawford said the revelation was “somewhat surprising” while committee member and former social security secretary Angela Constance described it as “truly shocking” given the need for accurate data as new social security powers transfer to Scotland.

Dame Susan told MSPs: “We are concerned about our access to data from the UK Department for Work and Pensions.

“We don’t currently have an agreed way of obtaining  access to the data that we require and our most recent request for information, public body to public body, was treated as a freedom of information request.

“While we received this information just in time for us to be able to examine it it places us in an uncertain situation with regard to future data requests.

“It was a significant challenge.”

She added: “Our sense is that they, like all big agencies, have more and more work to do and probably not more people to do it, but they would prefer to take all requests from Scotland from the Scottish Government.

“The commission as you all know acts independently and we have both a right and a need to request our own data and we’ve raised this, we’re in conversations but we do need to get this resolved.

“We need an agreement, a memorandum of understanding, about how we work together as we have with the other UK and Scottish agencies.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are in discussions with the Scottish Fiscal Commission to determine their data needs and once we have an agreed understanding of requirements, will explore data sharing options.”

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